President Trump’s May 1 remarks about Andrew Jackson and the Civil War may point to something more problematic than a lack of historical knowledge. “I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War….he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said ‘There’s no reason for this.'”
Trump is not just uninformed; he is promoting a revised history, and I doubt that it’s accidental.
Educated in a southern high school, I learned that the Civil War was not fought over slavery but over states’ right to secede from the Union. A friend, an intelligent woman, recently said she graduated from high school uncertain about who had won the Civil War. Only a year ago I listened to a young libertarian/survivalist couple enthusiastically tell about a writer popular with them and their friends. The Civil War was not fought over slavery, the author has written.
We’ve seen Trump’s ability to creative alternative facts: his inauguration was attended by more people than any other in history; President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. The news on TV is mostly fake news.
Maybe it is not ignorance, but a strategy for concentrating political power. “A totalitarian makes war on truth, perverts the assumptions that underlie critical thinking, and masters the dark art of propaganda” (Cynthia Tucker, http://www.pressconnects.com/story/opinion/columnists/2017/03/20/trumps-supporters-still-back-himregardless-debunked-lies/99274946/).
Is Trump deliberately promoting a revisionist view of history? If so, to what end? Who will benefit? Who will be the losers?
Nancy Werking Poling is author of Before It Was Legal: a black-white marriage (1945-1987).